A Modern "Abduction of Persephone" amidst Drought and Extreme Climate Change in Afghanistan


Afghanistan, is going through the worst and most severe climate change, one can possibly imagine. Drought, has led all crops to wither and cattle died of thirst. For an economy based on agricultural activities, this is a complete disaster. That is devastating, if someone gets to think that Afghan people starve to death, under these extreme weather conditions, while their agricultural production can be described more or less as a culinary bliss. The Afghan saffron, the pomegranates and more than 60 sort of grapes, and also a wide culinary spectrum, makes you wonder if those people are left on purpose in such a humiliating condition of starving and thirst. 

Most devastating scenario of course is the common practice, that is observed all across the country and has to do with kids being exchanged as brides, for only small amounts of money that will save families from starvation. I cannot imagine a worst violation of human rights, than this one. 

Ofcourse, the ancient Greek myth of the abduction of Persephone, which describes the story of Hades, the God of the Underworld who lived all his life in the dark, following the shadows of the dead people, and when he fell in love with beautiful Persephone, he abducted her, and took her to live with him in the dark, is not in straight proportion to this nightmarish situation in Afghanistan, but we can find some similarities.

Persephone, was an innocent young girl, that never expected her life to be like this, she had dreams for the future and never chose her destiny. Her mother Demetra, the goddess of harvest was in despair and deep sorrow when she lost her. The agreement that had been made for her daughter, was that Persephone would live for 6 months in the dark and the rest 6 months of the year she would be back again to the upper world, living next to her mother. Her going to the underworld symbolized the lack of grapes, on the contrary to her coming to the upper world, that symbolized the time of harvest and of grapes. In other words, it symbolized the circle of nature's euphoria.

And it is extremely ironic, the fact that today in Afghanistan, due to lack of grapes that is caused by extreme climate change in the area, little kids are exchanged by their families for the necessary means someone needs to survive. This is a sort of an indirect abduction, that made me think of the myth of Persephone...

The United Nations estimate that in the country, more than 80% of the conflict is over land and resources. Also, according to International Organization for Migration, one third of Afghan people, have migrated or been displaced inside the country since 2001. 

There are many stories of families which took loans in order to survive, and in exchange promissed their little children would get married to the wealthy adults who "helped" them. But many of those families, even after this verbal exchange, tried to protect their children and moved from places such as Badghis, to the outskirts of Herat, which is Afghanistan's third largest city, full of tents and makeshift shelters in the camp of Shahrak-e Sabz, made for internally displaced people. But if their children will manage to have a free life and get rid of this horrible mortgage...seems to be an already doomed to failure scenario.

The United States, have spent billions of dollars during those 19 years of occupation in Afghanistan (since 2001), and those money were all for training soldiers, for supporting troops, for bomb attacks, for funding security, for counternarcotics and for governmental projects. No amount of money went to help Afghan civilians, survive through climate changes in Afghanistan, and cope with natural disasters which deprive them of their harvest, that is necessary to cover their basic needs.

The state of total insecurity, of corruption and the lack of sustained funding, make the current condition in Afhanistan, deterrent in facing climate changes.

Many civilians that are respected by others, take the role of negotiating conflicts, most of which, are over land. Part of their role is to "pretend" the local leaders, a fact that turns Afghanistan centuries back in history, without a sign of a prospect for development, thus, letting this place in the map, an open wound...

                                                    written by Themis Panagiotopoulou, PhD in Political Science

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